Do you eat to feel better or relieve stress? Do you reach for a pint of ice cream when you’re feeling down? Order a pizza if you’re bored or lonely? Swing by the drive-through after a tough day at work? Most importantly, do you feel guilty and sad after doing so? Mindful eating is for you! Licensed Nutritionist and Dietitian Hitaf Zwein shares her advice to fall back in love with food with a few practical tips and guidelines.

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is a concept that originates from the East with Buddhists. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that involves being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment. In turn, it helps you recognize and cope with your emotional and physical sensations. Studies have shown it to treat weight conditions, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and various food-related conditions. Mindful eating is about listening to your body and heed its warnings or demands. You reach a state of full attention to your experiences, cravings, and physical cues when eating.

Mindfulness is a process-oriented, rather than an outcome-driven, behavior. It is based on an individual’s experience of the moment. The individual focuses on appreciating the experience of food and is not concerned with restricting intake. The person eating chooses what and how much to consume. It is not coincidental that, within a mindful approach, the person’s choices often are to eat less, savor eating more, and select foods consistent with desirable health benefits.

Adopting the practice may take more than a few adjustments in the way you approach meals and snacks. Fundamentally, mindful eating involves:

  • Eating slowly and without distraction

This means no eating while using your phone or watching TV. You need to be focused on the present and your body.

  • Listening to physical hunger cues and eating only until you’re full

If you feel hungry, eat. And when you feel full, stop. Too often, we eat when our mind tells us to, rather than our bodies. Listen to your body and don’t skip meals.

  • Distinguishing between true hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating

Are you responding to an emotional want or responding to your body’s needs? Ask yourself if you are actually hungry, or your emotions are playing tricks on you.

  • Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures, and flavors

Connect with your food. Consider that you are on a journey filled with wonders tickling your senses, instead of thinking of food simply as a means to an end. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings.

  • Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food

Practicing mindful eating forces you to slow down, focus on the present moment, and notice what you’re really feeling. And when you repeatedly ask yourself, “How well do I feel after a meal or snack?” you’ll begin the process of gaining awareness of your own specific nutritional needs.

  • Eating to maintain overall health and well-being

Consider the health value of every item you add to your shopping list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying. Fill most of your cart in the produce section, avoid processed foods and chips, and candy at the check-out counter. The healthier the food, the healthier and happier you are.

  • Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure

Once you start paying attention to your body, you will know which foods make you feel good and which ones make you uncomfortable. From then on, you can start adjusting your diet to your liking by experimenting with your food. 

  • Appreciating your food

Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you're enjoying it with.

How to practice mindful eating?

  • Eat more slowly and don’t rush your meals.
  • Chew thoroughly.
  • Eliminate distractions by turning off the TV and putting down your phone.
  • Eat in silence.
  • Focus on how the food makes you feel.
  • Stop eating when you’re full.
  • Ask yourself why you’re eating, whether you’re truly hungry, and whether the food you chose is healthy.

To begin with, it’s a good idea to pick one meal per day to focus on these points. Once you have the hang of it, mindfulness will become more natural. Then you can focus on implementing these habits into more meals.

The takeaway here is that: you are the only one who can control their eating habits and change them for the better. It takes time, patience, and practice, but it is worth it. If conventional diets haven’t worked for you, this technique is worth considering.

June 17, 2021 — Mint Basil Team

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